A Complete Breakdown Of the 12 Teams Willing To Give Shohei Ohtani $500M (*With Rankings*)

The Athletic listed 12 teams in play for Shohei Ohtani. They did it alphabetically without predictions, so I'm coming back to rank them in order. 

I'm going to be the most objective version of myself in analyzing the 12 teams. Reasons for and against with my best effort to play both sides over roughly 2,000 words with no pictures, no graphics, no video. Just plain old black and white text like a AIM subprofile circa 2003. This represents the best thinking I can do about the biggest story of baseball's offseason. 

It's really important to first talk about Shohei generally so we can have some kind of basis to evaluate his options. 

Obviously money is going to be consideration 1-A, but playoff/legacy opportunities register as a close 1-B. I don't think a bad longterm outlook (Padres?) can be offset by overpaying. And I also don't think an extremely competitive environment (Dodgers) can attract Shohei to a team-friendly deal. It should be a combination of those two factors leading the way. 

After that, consider the organizations that are adept at player development. Having an infrastructure where Shohei can improve is critical. You might think that's a slam dunk because we're talking about the big leagues, but that's simply not the case. Some of the clubs listed are significantly better (and others equally worse) at helping their players improve. So I'd call that consideration 3: opportunities for self-improvement. 

Then it's a mixed bag of miscellaneous stuff. Familiarity probably helps, but I don't think unfamiliarity necessarily hurts. Example: Seiya Suzuki on the Cubs being a close friend and Japanese national teammate probably moves the needle slightly. But I don't think that personal absence would hurt another bidder. It's just nice to have the line into Shohei for credibility. 

Other stuff: the personal aspect of appealing to his legacy. The sales pitch and relationship building in the free agency window. The trust that it's a good fit for the tens of millions of diehard fans he brings with him. Basically all the stuff I have no idea about and can only speculate into based upon historical efforts/results in free agency. Like the Phillies wouldn't be on my list, but they've seemed to land every free agent they've pursued for years. So I'm giving the Phillies of the benefit of the doubt in these rankings despite not having an ounce of personal insight into how Dombrowski quarterbacks the process. 

That's the criteria. 

It's exhaustive:

We've got money, team success/legacy, personal improvement, miscellaneous comfort/familiarity and the personal connection. 

I'll do my best to appropriately mix these factors without keeping a formal score. More touch and feel within a framework to make this list. A slightly more European approach but ultimately sound rankings in my professional opinion. 

With that, here's the 12 most likely clubs for Shohei Ohtani in 2024, ranked:

12. Angels: No fucking shot Shohei Ohtani goes back to the Angels. I know I just agreed to play both sides but that simply can't happen here. The Angels have no chance to keep Ohtani, and that's a conservative 0% chance. It's more likely that birds aren't real. The Angels have failed, miserably, to give this guy any support and I can't imagine he can tolerate another day in that uniform. The only argument for Shohei to stay in Los Angeles is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. 

11. Padres: The Padres would have been much higher last offseason. Then we found out they needed a loan to hit an inflated payroll that struggled to finish .500. Now we're hearing Soto and Cronenworth are on the trade block, and that's just one season removed from giving Xander Bogaerts nearly $300M over 11 seasons. So many areas are trending down for the Padres and yet I still think there's a chance they go crazy and give Ohtani the highest offer, maybe even an ownership percentage. They could easily offer the craziest compensation package along an absurd trio to build into: Machado, Tatis Jr. and the aforementioned Bogaerts. Not a shabby situation if you can get there, but the Padres probably don't because they can't. 

10. Rangers: Why not? Defending champs with a stacked lineup and all the young talent necessary to offset another monster whopper of a contract over the next decade. And it seems like the free agent investing is really paying off, so why slow down now? The sensible answer is that it's borderline insane to give more than the $101M already promised to Seager, deGrom and Semien next year. That would bump at least to $150M with just 4 players? Sure seems expensive. Sure seems like a longshot. Sure seems insane. So let's do it. 

9. Blue Jays: I hate the Blue Jays on this list. I really do. But the arguments are decent. They haven't committed any long-term money to Bichette or Vlad Jr. so there's room for something mega. Springer is owed $75M over 3 more seasons, which isn't too obstructive. Their #1-4 pitchers make about $15M on average. Manoah certainly isn't getting a massive extension any time soon. So the more you break it down and think about the dollars, the Blue Jays could easily smash any salary offer (I think). One thing I can't understand is their ownership influence. They're owned by a publicly traded company (Rogers Communications). On one hand, they'd be more cost conscious than Peter Seidler from the Padres or Middleton from the Phillies. But they also have a diverse media portfolio that could lend itself to a massive international play like Shohei. So maybe they see the salary as more of a capital investment than an expense. Maybe the board of directors wants to get Japanese market share. Who fuckin knows how those Canadian suits think. Complete wildcard so they're 9.


8. Phillies: How many times can the Phillies do it in a row? Doesn't matter. That's the only reason they're here and this high. The sensible considerations say NO SHOT here but I can't work against Middleton at this point. I just want to highlight that the Phillies have 37 designated hitters already. Can they really spend more money in MLB history to add a 38th? That wouldn't be smart and I think they're smart. So this would mean Dombrowski does a lot more crazy shit, which I wouldn't rule out in this package. But holistically speaking, I just don't know how the Phillies pull it off. 

7. Giants: They have the money, geography, and self-improvement boxes checked substantially. They might have the best MLB player development infrastructure in baseball - certainly one of the most successful over the last couple years. That's because their scouting and in-game information is top notch, and that extends into the offseason when approaching free agents on Why San Francisco. They do well with practically everyone and that matters with Ohtani. Although competitively, the Giants are perpetually behind the Dodgers and I think that's a consideration. It would be surprising, but we're starting to get into the more realistic options where a lot of boxes on both sides are getting checked. Giants are a solid option albeit on the outside. But solid.

6. Red Sox: The Red Sox could be last on this list. They could also be higher. The truth is I have no idea how anyone can read their situation. Trevor Story has been awful and that contract has at least $95M for the next 4 years. Devers is also on a big deal, but after that it really thins out. You have the historical charm, the global appeal and most visible division in MLB. It's one of the best organizations in all of pro sports over the last two decades and has every soft-factor Ohtani could want: legacy, competition, camaraderie, community. You name it, the Red Sox have it. The problem is they're just not at full capacity right now. There's a lot of work to be done as reflected by the front office shake up. Ohtani being Breslow's first big move would shatter my brain, but I still can't rule it out completely. 

5. Yankees: Brian Cashman is a bitter little bitch boy. But most of the reasons I said about the Red Sox equally apply here. When is money an issue with the Yankees? I could flip them with the Giants and Red Sox and feel okay. But I wouldn't move the Yankees into the top 4. This is where there's a clear break into serious contenders where there's so much to offer. Ohtani in pinstripes would be so cool but I think it's still slightly on the outside based entirely on Cashman's futility. 

4. Mets: Steve Cohen got hosed on the manager search. He's the richest man in MLB and on record that the Mets will win a World Series by 2026. There's enough common sense here for everyone to agree that Steve Cohen can write the biggest check. Does he offer it? And does Shohei consider taxes and quality of life? At least the Yankees can support legacy and a global platform. The Mets have none of that, but all of the negatives associated with a New York lifestyle relative to Ohtani's personal wants and needs. And also consider the general toxicity floating around the Mets right now. I think it's a good fit for the roster and there's plenty of reason this would work great. I just don't love the Mets more than the next 3 clubs. 

3. Mariners: This is such a good fit. Ohtani loves spending time in Seattle and grew up a monster Ichiro fan and it's obviously the best fit for any Japanese born superstar within any kind of cultural assessment. Ownership might not have the balls to drop the record breaking deal at the end of the day, but they have every other criteria satisfied. Is that enough? I don't love the resources and hate the front office's .540 win-percentage comments even more when aligning that against spending $500M on one player. If they pony up the cash, then the Mariners are just as much a favorite as anyone else. But that's a big if. Ultimately, this comes down to how big the Mariners are willing to go. 

2. Cubs: Experts would've said they're top-10 over the last year. But within the last couple of days, that narrative has completely changed to saying the Cubs are a frontrunner/top dog/most aggressive candidate to land Ohtani. Jed fired his friend to build a better team. He got his SS last year in Dansby then locked up two more gold glovers with extensions to Happ and Hoerner. There's another gold glover in the making with Pete Crow Armstrong in centerfield and tier-1 player analytics for self-improvement. There's money, familiarity with Seiya Suzuki and a bunch of day games that Japan can catch at 5am local time. Wake Up With Shohei has a nice ring to it, but I digress. Point is the Cubs have been surging in every area of the sweepstakes to the point that I'm tempted to rank them #1 based on all this momentum. That wouldn't surprise anyone around here, but I'm not going to do it. There's only one place that has one more box checked than the Cubs.


1. Dodgers: Money, familiarity, geography, scouting/personal improvement, competitive environment, legacy and history and literally everything. Every box checked. The Dodgers have been waiting years for this offseason. There's not one weakness to consider in Shohei joining the Dodgers. They can make a competitive bid with anyone, although I do see one small layered weakness. They will have a limit on what they offer. They're a principled, disciplined group. I think that limit is outrageously high. But it's a limit, and that's where I think the Mets could sneak in and really destroy the field with their offer. End of the day though, I think Ohtani will take the best overall situation and it's hard to put someone ahead of the Dodgers all things considered. 

There's the list 1-12. I'll be talking about it with Klemmer later this week on the Barstool Baseball ofseason show. Subscribe here for more baseball: